madeleines; twd/bwj

if you ask me, marcel proust was nuts.  he went on about madeleines, or at least that is how the story goes.  after baking them with this recipe, i can only ask why?  what is so wonderful about madeleines?
this week, the tuesdays with dorie bakers made the madeleine recipe from the baking with julia book.  to see the recipe, buy the book or visit the blogpage of our hosts for the challenge, katie and amy of counter dog.
so what is my problem, why am i hating on proust and his beloved madeleines?  they are not very exciting.  kind of dry actually and a little flavorless too.  then again, that is what most genoise cakes are, dry and flavorless.  made that way to soak up the flavor from the fillings and booze that they sandwich together in multilayer cakes served by the slice.  these little buggers didn’t just ask to be dunked in tea, they begged!
to make it interesting, i made two batches.  the first batch i flavored with freshly grated lemon zest and the second, with some cocoa powder and some cinnamon.  neither batch was worth indulging in if you ask me.  i brought them to a meeting and shared them.  the tasters enjoyed them and several dunked them-confirming my theory on the dryness.  would i make them again-not likely with this recipe.  while all madeleine recipes call for whipping eggs and sugar until the ribbon is formed, most have more than just flour a touch of butter and a little vanilla for flavor.  my own recipe includes coconut and is much moister and more flavorful than these.
the instructions from the recipe call for greasing and flouring the plaques.  not a good idea.  if anybody ever asks your opinion, tell them to just grease the pans or simply brush them with melted butter.  the flour and grease form a coating that stays on the madeleines and gives them a white washed effect.  it isn’t noticeable on the lemon ones but it sure is on the chocolate ones.  believe it or not, the cleaner pan of the two in the photo, just used grease-no flour at all.

when sitting side by side, you can easily tell which had flour in the pans.  

lemon zest added a hint of lemon flavor that improved the taste of the otherwise eggy little treats.  still wasn’t enough to tempt me into eating more than one.  to see how the rest of the bakers did, visit the tuesdays with dorie page.

twd: french strawberry cake

what’s not to love about a cake loaded with strawberries and whipped cream?  i can’t think of anything.  if you are smart and save the juices strained off of the macerated berries and make strawberry-basil martinis, there is even more to love.  so why the frown on my face?  one word-genoise.  they are so finicky and temperamental to make and i did not have a good time with this one.

this weeks tuesdays with dorie-baking with julia challenge, french strawberry cake-page 273, and it is hosted by sophia of sophias sweets and allison of think, love, sleep, dine.  visit their pages to read the full recipe.

 first things first, genoise.  it is a classic sponge cake and that should set off warning bells.  now don’t go jumping out a window or running away.  it is just a cake, albeit a difficult one but still a cake none the less.  follow the rules and you shall have cake.

i followed the rules.  my cake turned out like a rubber disk.

 trudging along, i poured it into the pan hoping for success. after carefully folding in the flour and melted butter, the batter seemed so thin to me and you can see that it isn’t much.  it came out of the oven like a rubber disk-i set about mixing up batch #2.

 round 2; i over whipped the eggs and stiff peaks stood stock still rather than dissolving.  i forged ahead anyway.  batch #3 worked out better.  since i have made genoise before, i knew i could omit the butter and still get a proper sponge cake.

my first attempt-a thin rubber disk that was very dense at the bottom-there was no way to get 3 layers out of this thing!

 my second attempt was over beaten and it sunk in the middle and again, i wasn’t going to get 3 layers from this cake.
third time was the charm!!!
 josie couldn’t believe it either
 first cake-very dense with a fine crumb-it went into the bird feeder.
 second cake-a little better, still a little finer crumb than i would like to have but it was a lot lighter than the first cake.

the third cake had what i think was a perfect light and open crumb that you need for a proper genoise.
the key, not over or under whipping the eggs.  that is a challenge and just because the recipe said to whip for 4-5 minutes, it’s not set in stone.  the only way to know if you have the right consistency-check the ribbon and see how long it takes to dissolve.  to get the 10 seconds, i had to whip for about 6-7 minutes.

next came the berries.  i macerated them as the recipe instructed only i added a little vanilla bean and rose water to really punch up the flavor.  the maceration process takes about 3 hours and is well worth it.  the juices that remain after assembling the cake make awesome martinis!  we made them with basil from the garden and i could have had 2 or 3 myself-luckily we ran out of the juices!!!

 the whipped cream frosting is a little different;  it has sour cream added to it to give it a little something, kinda like creme fraiche in a way.  when i whip cream, i wrap plastic around the machine to prevent splashing.

 perfect soft peaks

strain the juices off by lifting the berries out with a slotted spoon.  spread them over the top of the layer.

 a thin coat of whipped cream frosting covers the berries

 then you do it again.  finally, the third layer is placed on top and the cake is frosted all over.

i think the recipe should call for the full 2 cups of cream in the carton rather than 1 1/4 cup.  i didn’t have anything left to pipe rosettes with.  i brought the cake to a dinner-i was lucky to get a sliver of a taste-they did give me back my dirty cake plate though…

many thanks to sophia and allison for hosting, well done ladies!

just another sponge bath…

life has handed me lemons this week…the computer went out on my car and it took the transmission with it… two of my cats cannot decide which litter box to use so they have opted not to use any of them… my mother in law thinks i am mad at her… it is very likely that i will miss my deadline for chapter two tomorrow. so what’s a girl to do? throw open the windows and let some fresh air in. load the cd player with tom jones, cher, pat boone and motowns greatest hits and play them at a loud volume. and finally, zest a lemon and bake a cake…

sponge cake to be exact. whip the eggs to a ribbon stage with some lemon zest and sugar. be sure to sing along and dance badly to half breed.
while pat boone does a bang up job on stairway to heaven, sift the flour over the eggs and gently fold it in.
whip the egg whites with some sugar until they are almost stiff-they should droop a bit when the beater is raised. this allows the cake to expand during the baking without collapsing. whats new pussycat, sing it tom
fold those whites into the mix and pour it into an ungreased tube pan. you don’t want to grease it because the cake needs to stick to the pan in order to set the structure properly. gypsies, tramps and thieves…
the two timers at work while i sing and dance. good thing nobody is home with me…
sponge cake, its not unusual now is it…